It’s a complex disease

In people with von Willebrand disease (VWD), the blood doesn’t clot the way it’s supposed to. Even though it’s the most common bleeding disorder, affecting up to 1% of the world's population, many people with VWD don’t get diagnosed correctly.1

When you have VWD, your body doesn’t make enough of a protein in the blood called von Willebrand factor (VWF), or the VWF that it does make doesn’t function properly.2

Bleeding caused by VWD varies from person to person and from episode to episode. There are different types of VWD, but the type you have does not always determine how severe your bleeding will be or where it will occur.3

The threat of bleeding is something people with VWD live with every day, but with proper treatment, they may be able to manage these bleeding episodes.3,4

VWF: Your blood can't clot properly without it

VWF is one of several types of proteins in the blood that are needed to help it clot properly to stop bleeding when you’re injured.2

In this process, VWF has 2 main roles1,3,5:

  1. Helping platelets, cells in the blood that clump together to form a clot, stick to the wall of a blood vessel where an injury has occurred.
  2. Protecting factor VIII, another protein needed for proper blood clotting, from being broken down too soon.

HOW VWD AFFECTS BLOOD CLOTTING

In a person without VWD

In a person without VWD: A healthy blood vessel
It begins with a blood vessel

von Willebrand factor

von Willebrand factor (VWF)

Blood platelets

Blood platelets

Blood cell

Blood cell

In a person without VWD: Injury occurs
Injury occurs

The blood vessel constricts, or tightens up, to slow blood flow to the area.1

In a person without VWD: Platelets gather
Platelets gather

Blood cells called platelets travel to the injured area and join together, forming a plug.1,3

In a person without VWD: VWF binds
VWF binds

VWF acts as the “glue” that sticks the platelet plug to the wall of the injured blood vessel.1,3 Then additional blood proteins needed for clotting move to cover the platelets and stick them together to create fibrin, a mesh-like clot that helps stop the bleeding.1

In a person with VWD

In a person with VWD: The process starts in a similar way
The process starts in a similar way

von Willebrand factor (VWF)

von Willebrand factor (VWF)

Blood platelets

Blood platelets

Blood cell

Blood cell

In a person with VWD: Again, injury occurs
Again, injury occurs

The blood vessel constricts.1

In a person with VWD: Platelets gather
Platelets gather

Platelets swarm the site of injury and try to form a plug.1,3

In a person with VWD: VWF fails
VWF fails

In this case, there is not enough VWF—or the VWF that is there doesn’t work properly—and the plug can’t stick to the blood vessel.1,3

A deeper dive into VWD

Interested in learning more about VWD? Here are some additional places where you can get a greater understanding of your disorder.